Big league baseball makes its way north

By Kelly Anne Griffin

Canadians have been playing in various major baseball leagues since the 1870s. The first to do so was New Brunswick native Bill Phillips, who played first base for the Cleveland franchise. In 1883, Ontario native Tip O’Neill, the greatest pre-1900 Canadian player, would make his Major League Baseball (MLB) debut. Since then many have followed suit. The only Canadian to earn his place with a plaque on the walls of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, is Chatham, Ontario, native Ferguson Jenkins. Jenkins had a remarkable pitching career with 284 major league wins.

A black-and-white photograph of a pitcher throwing the ball from the mound. Behind him is a large score board displaying the score and outfielders preparing for the ball to come into play.

Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins pitching for the Chicago Cubs in a game against the Montreal Expos on September 19, 1970. Jenkins is now active in philanthropic work, including the Fergie Jenkins Foundation based out of St. Catharines, Ontario. Credit: Montreal Star (MIKAN 3195251)

While Jenkins is the only Canadian in Cooperstown, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in Saint Marys, Ontario, honours Canadians’ contributions to the game both on and off the field. Canada has also been home to two MLB franchises, starting with the National League expansion in 1968.

The Montreal Expos – Nos Amours

The Expos had an exhilarating first week. At Shea stadium on April 8, 1969, “O Canada” played at an MLB game for the first time, bringing team owner Charles Bronfman to tears and giving rise to “Les Expos, Nos Amours”, the nickname affectionately given to the team by fans. The exciting game ended with an 11 to 10 Expos win over the New York Mets. On April 14, in the first MLB game played outside the US, the Expos won over a packed house of fans at Jarry Park in Montreal. Three days later pitcher Bill Stoneman threw a no-hitter against the Phillies. Montreal was captivated and the wild ride began.

A coloured poster designed for the 1976 Olympic Games. It depicts three different views of the Olympic stadium built for the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.

The Olympic Stadium in Montreal was built for the 1976 Summer Olympics, and the Expos started playing there in 1977. The stadium was problematic as a baseball venue for many reasons, including structural issues with the roof and a thin astroturf that was notouriously hard on players’ knees. Since 2014, the Blue Jays have hosted exhibition games there. © Canadian Olympic Committee (MIKAN 3929420)

Despite an excellent farm system and outstanding talent, the Expos made it to the postseason only once, in 1981. Under the guidance of Canadian Baseball Hall-of-Fame manager Jim Fanning, the ’81 season saw Warren Cromartie, Andre Dawson and Gary Carter all hitting over .300, and Hall of Famer Tim Raines stealing a league-high 71 bases. The season, interrupted by a strike, saw them win the National League East title. They went on to play the Dodgers and came within one win of advancing to the World Series when Rick Monday hit a 9th inning home run securing Dodgers victory. That hit ended the Expos’ run and the fateful day became known as “Blue Monday” to fans.

A black-and-white cartoon showing a line of luxury cars driving in a circle around a baseball stadium. In the cars are characters leaning from the windows and holding signs with slogans, including "Unfair," "We Want Rights" and "Major League On Strike."

An editorial cartoon depicting Expos players on strike outside Olympic stadium in Montreal during the 1981 players’ strike. The strike caused the cancellation of 713 games in the middle of the season. Credit: Rusins Kaufmanis (MIKAN 2841681)

Ironically, a second work stoppage dashed fans’ hopes in 1994. In that magical season, manager Felipe Alou had the Expos sitting on top of the baseball world with a 74 wins and 40 losses record. The 232-day strike resulted in commissioner Bud Selig cancelling the World Series and so ending the chances of an Expos playoff run.

The franchise never recovered from the strike, either on the field or in the stands. In 2004, after 36 years, the Expos played their last game at Olympic stadium. The Expos’ first French-Canadian player, Claude Raymond, who had played in their inaugural 1969 season, gave a tearful final speech to fans, providing a bookend for the franchise.

Toronto Blue Jays

The Toronto Blue Jays were founded in 1977 as part of the American League expansion. The team has won six Eastern Division titles, two American League pennants and two World Series titles.

The Blue Jays first game in franchise history took place at Exhibition Stadium on April 7, 1977. Fans braved the unseasonably frigid temperatures to witness the historic event that resulted in a 9 to 5 win over the Chicago White Sox. An unknown first-baseman named Doug Ault slammed two homeruns to become the first Jays hero.

A black-and-white photograph of a baseball game. There’s a man who has just swung at the ball. Behind him is a man wearing catcher equipment and crouching, while behind him is an umpire, also crouching. In the background are players in baseball uniforms and a man wearing police uniform, all watching the action. Behind them spectators are seated in the stands.

The Toronto Blue Jays play the Kansas City Royals in their inaugural season on August 12, 1977, at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto. They played at Exhibition Stadium until 1989, when the Skydome (now Rogers Center) opened its doors. Credit: Toronto Star/Frank Lennon (MIKAN 3796691)

After many turbulent years, the Blue Jays finally made 1992 a historic one for Canadian baseball. They won their first American League championship and became the first team based outside the United States to win a World Series Championship. As a sign of respect for the team that had paved the way, the Jays asked the Expos’ original owner, Charles Bronfman, to perform the ceremonial first pitch prior to Game 3 of the series. The impressive six-game World Series concluded with Dave Winfield driving in the winning runs in the 11th inning. Jays catcher Pat Borders was awarded the series MVP.

The Blue Jays’ success continued into the 1993 season as they defended their title of American League champions. John Olerud became the first Blue Jay to win a batting title. The Jays went on to defend their World Series championship, defeating the Philadelphia Phillies in six games. In a moment forever etched in the memory of fans, Joe Carter hit a theatrical home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to win the deciding game. It was only the second time in World Series history that a series had ended on a home run.

The luck ended two years later when the Jays finished dead last in the American League East. Jump ahead to 2015, however, and the 22-season streak of failing to reach the post-season was broken under Manager John Gibbons, with the Jays winning their sixth American League East Division title. They then came back from a two-game deficit to beat the Texas Rangers in the Division Series. That series included the iconic home run and bat flip by right fielder Jose Bautista. In the American League Championship Series, the Jays lost to the Kansas City Royals, who would go on to win the World Series.

For the Jays, the 2016 regular season proved inconsistent and found them in second place in the American League East. However, they battled to make it to the sudden-death American League Wild Card game, where, in a nail-biter, they defeated the Baltimore Orioles 5 to 2, thanks to Edwin Encarnacion’s dramatic walk-off homerun in extra innings before a packed Rogers Centre crowd of roaring Canadians. A new generation of Canadian baseball fans had arrived.

Canada and baseball have not always had an easy relationship, but it has been one full of exciting and individual moments. Baseball in Canada has served as an introduction for children to the importance of team work, it has been there for soldiers in wartime, and it has united the country in times of both triumph and defeat.

A black-and-white photograph of five men standing around a counter. Two of the men are wearing baseball uniforms with a large letter ‘C’ on the chest. The other men are wearing suits and hats. One of the uniformed men is holding up a drink and looking towards the camera.

Players in Cobden, Ontario, grab a refreshing drink after a game in 1909 (MIKAN 3379777)

“Cheers” to many more memories and many more moments for the history books as Canada plays ball!

Other resources


Kelly Anne Griffin is an archival technician in the Science, Environment and Economy section of the Archives Division at Library and Archives Canada.

From humble beginnings to making history in Montreal

By Kelly Anne Griffin

Long before unforgettable Canadian baseball moments, such as Joe Carter’s World-Series-winning home run, the emotion and pride Canadians felt as our national anthem was performed for the first time at a Major League Baseball (MLB) game, and Jose Bautista’s iconic bat flip, baseball already had a strong presence in Canada. While many of us consider baseball a North American sport, it actually has its origins in the European bat-and-ball game played by British schoolkids known as rounders. Variations of baseball were being played in Canada at least three decades before Confederation. The first documented account of the game, however, comes from Beachville, Ontario, on June 4, 1838. Southwestern Ontario was where the game was most prominent in these early days.

A black-and-white photograph of an outdoor baseball field with a game underway. The crowd watches from the packed stands. The background shows the buildings of the cityscape.

A baseball game at Tecumseh Park between the International League’s London Tecumsehs and the Stars of Syracuse in 1878. Now called Labatt Park, it is the world’s oldest continually operating baseball grounds, opening on May 3, 1877. It was designated a heritage site in 1994 (MIKAN 3261769)

A black-and-white photograph of a baseball game from behind home plate. A player is at the plate as a pitch comes in. The umpire stands behind him to make the call.

Hanlan’s Point Stadium on Toronto Island in 1917, the first home of the International League’s Toronto Maple Leafs baseball club. It was also where Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run while playing for the Providence Grays (MIKAN 3384487)

A black-and-white photograph of a baseball stadium, taken from the vantage point of the right field bleachers. The bleachers and the field, including the diamond and outfield, are visible.

View from the outfield stands at Maple Leaf Stadium in Toronto. Built in 1927 for the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League, it was built to replace Hanlan’s Point Stadium (MIKAN 3327476)

The first official Canadian baseball team was formed as a result of efforts by William Shuttleworth, who was known as the father of Canadian baseball. The first pioneering team, comprised of various working class men from around Hamilton, was called the Young Canadians. For the next two decades, teams adhering to different rules sprouted up all over Canada. As the popularity of the sport soared, businessmen sponsored their favourite teams as a way to promote their products, and the Canadian Association of Baseball Players was founded. At this time, rather than competing nationally, many local baseball clubs competed cross-border with their closest American neighbours. By 1913, there were 24 minor league teams in Canada.

A black-and-white photograph of 10 children wearing baseball uniforms. The jerseys read "Pages" across the front. The boys are sitting and standing with bats, gloves and other baseball equipment. Behind the boys stands an adult man, wearing a suit and hat. The background is a studio backdrop showing trees.

House of Commons “Pages” baseball team, circa 1900. Baseball was enjoyed by people of all ages in Canada. It was seen as a great way to develop team skills and it was common for companies and their staff to form teams, such as these young men who worked on Parliament Hill (MIKAN 3549043)

First World War

Sports were an important part of everyday life in Europe for Canadian troops during the First World War. They served as a way to break the monotony of the troops’ duties and relieve stress. The leadership saw sports as a way of keeping the men out of trouble and boosting their morale while they stayed physically fit. Baseball became so beloved by soldiers that it was even sponsored by the government. In April 1916, the government held a fundraiser with the proceeds going towards baseball equipment.

A black-and-white photograph of a player sliding into home plate. The catcher is standing over the base while the umpire makes the call. A crowd of soldiers cheers them on.

member of the Canadian team slides into home as troops cheer him on in 1917. Baseball was immensely popular with troops and games were held regularly during down time (MIKAN 3384451)

Second World War

During the Second World War, baseball continued to be a favourite pastime of troops. With the Americans’ arrival in 1942, there were suddenly plenty of other teams against which to compete. As was the case in the early days of the game back at home, Canada-versus-the-US games were commonplace. One of the most memorable games occurred at Wembley Stadium on August 3, 1942, with 6,000 cheering fans in the stands. The Canadian troops defeated US Army Headquarters, 5 to 3.

A black-and-white photograph of a baseball game. A player stands with a bat and behind him are a catcher and an umpire. In the background are players watching the play and spectators in the stands.

A game between Canadian and US servicemen in August 1942 at Wembley Stadium in London, England, a venue that held many baseball games during the Second World War (MIKAN 3211157)

A black-and-white photograph of a woman in work clothes and a headscarf swinging a baseball bat at a ball. She stands in a vacant lot with industrial buildings and other structures in the background.

It wasn’t just those contributing to the war efforts overseas who enjoyed baseball during the war years. Here, a woman from an ammunition factory in Toronto joins a game on her break (MIKAN 3195852)

Upon returning to Canada, many soldiers spoke fondly of the baseball games and continued playing and watching back home. While Canadians played many sports during war times, none was played as often or to such an enthusiastic audience as baseball.

Jackie Robinson

In 1945, the young Negro Leagues player Jackie Robinson was approached by Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey. Shortly after that initial, secret meeting it was announced that Robinson had signed a contract with the organization. The plan was to find the path of least resistance to his race to ease him into the Majors. The first step was to assign Robinson to spring training in Florida then ease him into professional baseball in Montreal with the team’s triple-A affiliate. Montreal was a deliberate selection, a city in which Rickey believed Robinson could get acclimated to baseball with less of a negative experience than he likely could in many American cities. However, during that first spring, in 1946, Robinson experienced unrelenting racism. In Sanford, Florida, the sheriff stepped onto the field and cancelled an exhibition game because African Americans were not allowed to compete with white players.

Montreal was a more welcoming city for Jackie and his wife Rachel. While still not without incident, the city and its fans embraced him. In his first and only season in Montreal, Jackie helped lead the team to an exceptional record of 100 wins and only 54 losses.

Learn more about Jackie Robinson’s groundbreaking career.

A black-and-white photograph of a baseball player rounding the bases as a player on the opposing team tries to catch up to him.

Jackie Robinson in Florida for spring training in 1946. Fans loved the way he sped around the diamond mesmerizing crowds, stealing a remarkable 40 bases during his first and only season in the minors, including many at home plate (MIKAN 3574533)

From humble beginnings in southwestern Ontario to a favourite wartime activity to the city of Montreal embracing Jackie Robinson, by the middle of the 20th century baseball had captured the heart of the nation. Still, Canada’s love of baseball was about to take on new heights. With Major League Baseball on its way, more Canadians than ever would soon fall in love with the game.

Other resources:


Kelly Anne Griffin is an archival technician in the Science, Environment and Economy Section of the Archives Division at Library and Archives Canada.

Images of Boxing now on Flickr

Boxing is the sport of fighting with padded, gloved fists in a square, roped-off ring under a set number of rounds and rules.

A black-and-white photograph of two boxers fighting on the deck of the SS Justicia, surrounded by the ship’s complement of soldiers.

Canadian troops aboard the SS Justicia, en route to Liverpool, England, watch a boxing match (MIKAN 3384735)

However, the first boxers in Canada did not use gloves. Bareknuckle fisticuffs were the norm during the early 19th century, with some bouts lasting 40 rounds. Outside of the military and a few men’s clubs, boxing was not sanctioned in the provinces of Canada, as the sport did not have a great reputation for fair play or honest promotion. Respectability for the sport came slowly, and views changed during the 1890s. The popularity of the sport grew steadily during the early 20th century.

A black-and-white photograph of two soldiers boxing. One wears black trunks and the other wears white trunks. Soldiers outside the ring watch the match.

Soldiers boxing in the exhibition grounds (MIKAN 3384740)

A black-and-white photograph of middleweight boxer Edwin A. Harris (Canada) in his trunks and gloves, posing with another soldier.

Edwin A. Harris (Canada), middleweight finalist in boxing, at the Inter-Allied Games, Pershing Stadium, Paris, France (MIKAN 3384730)

Today, the Canadian Amateur Boxing Association oversees the sport in coordination with 10 provincial and three territorial boxing associations. Some athletes eventually turn to professional boxing, while others retain their amateur status with the intent to represent Canada in international events, such as the Olympics or Commonwealth Games.

Visit the Flickr album now!

“Unity Through Sport”: Organizing the first Canada Games in Québec in 1967

By Normand Laplante

Minus 33 degrees Celsius (wind chill: –52)! It was bone-chillingly cold when the competitions started at the first Canada Winter Games, in the city of Québec on February 12, 1967. Three days later, organizers and athletes faced more bad weather: a blizzard that dumped 76 centimetres of snow on the sports venues. Despite the harsh winter conditions, this first national multi-sport event, which brought 1,800 athletes together from across Canada, was a great success. Fifty years on, on the eve of the 26th Canada Games in Winnipeg, those first Games stand as an important milestone in the development of sport in Canada.

In 1962, the Canadian Sports Advisory Council decided to create a large national sporting competition that would bring together amateur athletes from every province and territory. The competition would be held every two years, alternating between winter and summer editions. André Marceau, a member of the newly established National Advisory Council on Fitness and Amateur Sport, proposed that Québec host the first Canada Winter Games. His proposal was accepted, and in 1963, a group of athletes from Quebec’s capital set up a corporation for those first Games, with Georges Labrecque as president and Marceau as vice-president. Guy Rousseau became chief executive officer for the Games.

In March 1965, the federal and Quebec governments officially announced that the first Canada Winter Games would take place in February 1967. The competition would be one of the events held to celebrate the centennial of Confederation. Organizers of the Games had initially planned on 20 sports, including winter Olympic sports, indoor sports and lesser-known disciplines such as barrel jumping, dog racing and ice canoeing. This list was revised many times in the months that followed because organizers had to consider a number of issues, including logistics. In the autumn of 1966, the corporation announced the 13 sports for the first Games: skiing (downhill and cross-country skiing, and ski jumping), speed skating, figure skating, hockey, curling, basketball, volleyball, badminton, wrestling, synchronized swimming, artistic gymnastics, shooting and table tennis.

A colour photograph of a ski jumper flying above a crowd of spectators.

A ski jumper above a crowd of spectators at the first Canada Winter Games, Québec, 1967 (MIKAN 4743402)

A black-and-white photograph of a woman kneeling and aiming a rifle, surrounded by spent cartridges.

A shooting competition at the first Canada Games, Québec (MIKAN 4743394)

Choosing the athletes for the provincial delegations required an unprecedented level of coordination between provincial governments, national sports associations and the organizers of the Games. The organizing committee of the Games in Québec estimated that 75,000 people participated in preparations for the first Canada Winter Games. These included not only athletes from the 10 provinces and 2 territories, who competed in elimination rounds to determine who would qualify for the teams, but also officials, organizers, coaches, and heads of provincial and national sports associations. One result of this exercise was the creation of many provincial administrative bodies responsible for sport.

The Prime Minister of Canada, Lester B. Pearson, accompanied by provincial premiers Jean Lesage of Quebec, Louis Robichaud of New Brunswick and Alex Campbell of Prince Edward Island, opened the Games on February 11, 1967, in front of the Legislative Assembly of Quebec, with the theme of “Unity Through Sport.” During the nine days of competition, 184 medals were awarded. Ontario won the most medals, ahead of teams from British Columbia and Alberta. Teresa McDonnell, winner of three artistic gymnastics events, and Toller Cranston, gold medallist in figure skating and a future bronze medallist at the Winter Olympics, were two of the athletes whose performances stood out at these first Games.

A black-and-white photograph of a podium on which three young women wearing medals are standing. A man is shaking hands with the gold medallist.

The Prime Minister of Canada, Lester B. Pearson, congratulates Teresa McDonnell and her fellow medallists, Jennifer Diachun and Marie St-Jean, after a women’s gymnastics competition at the first Canada Winter Games in Québec, photographed by H. Leclair (MIKAN 4743377)

The success of the first Games encouraged the national sports organizations and the federal government to hold the first Canada Summer Games in Halifax-Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, in 1969. In later years, several provinces would launch their own provincial winter and summer games, modelled on the Canada Games.

Colour photograph of a man in a red jacket carrying the Canadian flag while athletes enter the stadium.

Harry Jerome carries the Canadian flag at the opening ceremonies of the first Canada Summer Games in Halifax-Dartmouth (MIKAN 4743415)

To learn more about the Canada Games and the athletes who participated in them, please consult the following sources at Library and Archives Canada:

Were you there? Do you have a story to tell?


Normand Laplante is a senior archivist in the Society and Culture Division of the Private Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

125 years ago today: the invention of basketball and the Canadian participants in the first ever basketball game

By Normand Laplante

December 21, 2016 marks the 125th anniversary of the invention of basketball by Canadian James Naismith and of the first game ever played. In the fall of 1891, Naismith was studying to become a YMCA physical education instructor at the International YMCA Training Institute in Springfield, Massachusetts. He was given the task of finding a suitable indoor recreational sport for a physical education class for men aspiring to become executive YMCA secretaries. This group of “incorrigibles” had shown little interest in undertaking traditional calisthenics and gymnastics exercises and their reluctance had led the two previous physical instructors assigned to the group to quit. Naismith first attempted to have the class play modified indoor versions of football, soccer and even the Canadian game of lacrosse. However, these initiatives proved unsuccessful, largely due to the physical restraints imposed by a small gymnasium. Naismith then came up with the idea of a new sport, based on a children’s game Duck on the rock, where two teams would battle each other to throw a ball into the opposing team’s basket to score points. On December 21, 1891, Naismith presented his 13 rules for the new game to the class and separated the group into two teams of nine players. While the final score of the game was only 1-0, the new sport proved to be a big hit with the players.

A black-and-white photograph with a list of all the players pictured, as well as those missing from the photograph who were part of the first team.

Members of the world’s first basketball team, Springfield, Massachusetts, 1891 (MIKAN 3652826)

The participants in the first game included four Canadians who, like Naismith, were studying at the International YMCA Training Institute in Springfield: Lyman W. Archibald, Finlay G. MacDonald and John George Thompson, from Nova Scotia, and Thomas Duncan Patton, from Montreal. As graduate trainees of the Institute returning to their new duties in Canada, some members of the “First Team” were
instrumental in spreading the new sport through the YMCA network in different regions of Canada.

Detail from a black-and-white photograph of the first basketball team.

Lyman W. Archibald, Springfield, Massachusetts, 1891 (MIKAN 3652826)

Originally from Truro, Nova Scotia, Lyman W. Archibald (1868-1947) became general secretary and physical director of the St. Stephen, New Brunswick, YMCA in 1892 and organized one of the first basketball games played in Canada in the fall of 1892 in this town on the Canada-US border. In 1893, Archibald moved on to Hamilton, Ontario where, as a YMCA physical instructor, he brought the sport to that region.

Detail from the black-and-white photograph of the first basketball team.

John G. Thompson, Springfield, Massachusetts, 1891 (MIKAN 3652826)

After graduating from the YMCA Training Institute in 1895, John G. Thompson (1859-1933), from Merigomish, Nova Scotia, returned to his home province and, in 1895, was appointed physical education director at the new YMCA building in New Glasgow, where he introduced basketball to the Pictou County region.

Detail from the black-and-white photograph of the first basketball team.

T. Duncan Patton, Springfield, Massachusetts, 1891 (MIKAN 3652826)

T. Duncan Patton (1865-1944), originally from Montreal, was one of the two team captains selected by Naismith for the first game. He is said to have introduced the sport to India as a YMCA missionary in 1894. Later on, as YMCA secretary in Winnipeg in the early 1900s, Patton influenced the early organizers of the game in that city.

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) holds the D. Hallie Lowry collection which includes photographs of Naismith and of participants of the first basketball game in Springfield. The National Council of Young Men’s Christian Associations of Canada fonds includes a copy of James Naismith’s 1941 book, Basketball: Its Origins and Development, autographed by some of the members of the first basketball team, including Canadians T. Duncan Patton and Lyman W. Archibald; and Patton’s personal published account of the origins of the sport, Basketball: How and When Introduced, written before 1939. LAC’s collection also has photographs of early basketball teams which provide visual documentation of the development of the sport in Canada.

A black-and-white photograph showing four young men posing around a basketball.

An early photograph of a Canadian basketball team which included Norman Bethune (second from the bottom) with Clark, Lewis and McNeil, members of the Owen Sound Collegiate Institute basketball team, ca 1905 (MIKAN 3192129)

Related Links


Normand Laplante is a senior archivist in the Society and Culture Division of the Private Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

The XXI Summer Olympic Games opened July 17, 1976 in Montréal

By Dalton Campbell

A colour photograph depicts two young people standing on a raised platform in a crowded stadium. They each have a hand on a torch which they are holding aloft. Beside them is a large ceremonial cauldron that is lit with a flame.

The Olympic cauldron is lit during the opening ceremonies of the XXI Summer Olympic Games, Montréal, July 17, 1976. ©Canadian Olympic Committee

Montréal, Quebec was awarded the games in the second round of voting by Olympic delegates in 1970. After the first ballot, Moscow was leading Montréal 28 votes to 25, resulting in third-place Los Angeles being automatically eliminated. The Montréal bid received most of the Los Angeles support and was selected as host city.

A colour photograph depicts the inside of Olympic Stadium, Montréal. The athletes of the competing nations assemble on the infield of the stadium. The flags of the competing nations hang from the rafters.

The delegations of participating countries gather during the opening ceremonies for the XXI Summer Olympic Games, Montréal, July 17, 1976. ©Canadian Olympic Committee

Construction of the Olympic facilities was slow due to complicated architectural designs, the rapid inflation rate and governments reluctant to commit to funding. Exceptionally cold weather halted construction in January 1976. When the games started, 19 of the 21 facilities were finished; however the Olympic Stadium, the centrepiece, was not completed when the games began.

Nadia Comaneci, a 14-year-old gymnast from Romania, was perhaps the biggest star of the Montréal games. In the opening days of the Olympics, she earned an unprecedented perfect 10.00 for her routine on the uneven bars. However, as the score board was equipped with only three digits, the judges—in uncharted territory—displayed scores of “1.00.”

A colour photograph depicts a young woman standing on the podium waving to the crowd. She is wearing a white track suit with “Romania” written on it. Behind her on the floor are two other young women.

Romania’s Nadia Comaneci (centre) waves to the crowd after her gold medal win in the uneven bars during the gymnastics competition at the XXI Summer Olympic Games. She went on to earn five medals, including three gold. The silver medal is awarded to Teodora Ungureanu of Romania (left) and the bronze to Márta Egervári of Hungary (right). Montréal, July 1976. ©Canadian Olympic Committee

Apparently at a meeting before the 1976 Olympics, there had been a discussion to use score clocks with four digits. The decision was to use three-digit clocks because a perfect ten was impossible.

Michel Vaillancourt, riding his horse Branch County, was the first Canadian to earn an individual equestrian medal at the Olympics. Born northeast of Montréal, he was performing in front of his hometown crowd when he won a silver medal in individual show jumping.

Colour photograph of a man riding a horse as they complete a jump over a fence in the equestrian competition. The audience is seated in the background.

Canada’s Michel Vaillancourt rides Branch County in an equestrian event at the XXI Summer Olympic Games, Montréal, July 1976. ©Canadian Olympic Committee

On the last day of the games, the high jump competition was held in the rain. The world record holder, Dwight Stones of the United States, had been favoured to win. After an interview in which he appeared to criticize the facilities and the hosts, he was booed by the crowd. Stones, who disliked jumping in wet conditions, struck the bar and was eliminated. The next athlete, Canada’s Greg Joy, cleared the bar, bringing the crowd of almost 70,000 to their feet in a standing ovation. Joy would finish with the silver medal, ceding the gold to Jacek Wszola of Poland.

Colour photograph of a man competing in the high jump event. The photo depicts him in the air approaching the bar. Behind the mat are photographers. The crowd is seated in the background.

Canada’s Greg Joy competes in the high jump event at the XXI Summer Olympic Games, Montréal, July 1976. ©Canadian Olympic Committee

Although no Canadian earned a gold medal at the 1976 games, Greg Joy was cheered and honoured as if he had. He was named flag bearer for the closing ceremonies. Later that year he received the Lionel Conacher Award as Canada’s male athlete of the year, beating out jockey Sandy Hawley and hockey superstar Guy Lafleur. For many years afterwards, his jump and celebration were replayed nightly across the county; it was the second-last clip in the O Canada video shown on CBC television immediately before the network signed off for the night.

Colour photograph of a man, dressed in shorts and sleeveless t-shirt, standing with his arms raised in the air. In the background are people dressed in rain gear.

Greg Joy after winning the high jump event at the XXI Summer Olympic Games, Montréal, July 1976. ©Canadian Olympic Committee

The closing ceremonies were held on August 1, 1976. Canada finished the games with five silver and six bronze medals—more than double the number of medals won by Canada in 1968 or 1972.

Additional Resources


Dalton Campbell is an archivist in the Science, Environment and Economy Section of the Private Archives Division.

 

Jackie Robinson and the baseball colour barrier

By Dalton Campbell

In April 1946, Jackie Robinson took the field with the Montreal Royals baseball team, which played in the International League. He was the first black man signed to a Major League Baseball team in the twentieth century. After signing a contract in October 1945 with the Brooklyn Dodgers, he was assigned by Dodgers’ management to the Royals, the Dodgers’ top minor league affiliate, in order to gain experience. They thought that Montreal would be a less hostile city for him to learn to deal with media scrutiny and fan attention and to endure on-field discrimination and physical intimidation.

Black-and-white photograph of a baseball player running the bases. His foot is on third base and he is turning and heading to home plate. In the background are other players, and in the distance the outfield fence and trees.

Jackie Robinson, in a Montreal Royals’ uniform, circles third base and heads for home during spring training. April 20, 1946 (MIKAN 3574533)

In the first game of the season, he more than held his own. He had four hits, three runs, and a home run. A famous photograph captures Royals’ teammate George “Shotgun” Shuba shaking Robinson’s hand as he crossed home plate after his home run. This is believed to be the first photograph of a white man congratulating a black man on a baseball diamond. Continue reading

The New Westminster Salmonbellies, Vancouver Lacrosse Club and professional lacrosse in the early 1900s

By Dalton Campbell

In 1909, the New Westminster Salmonbellies and the Vancouver Lacrosse Club (VLC) started playing in the two-team professional British Columbia Lacrosse Association (BCLA).

A trading card with a colour print of a man wearing a plain green sweater with a red collar. It is captioned: “Bones Allen, Vancouver Team.”

Angus “Bones” Allen, midfielder/forward, played six seasons with the Vancouver Lacrosse Club. He is one of the few players to have won the Stanley Cup and the Minto Cup. (MIKAN 2963049)

Continue reading

Library and Archives Canada releases its latest podcast episode, “Shot Stone: Curling in Canada”

Library and Archives Canada is releasing its latest podcast episode, “Shot Stone: Curling in Canada.”

Curling could be considered the unofficial national sport of Canada. In this episode, we will explore the game’s evolution, its development as an organized sport, and the creations of a Canadian curling culture. We will also let you know about the extensive collection of materials at Library and Archives Canada related to the history and the development of curling in Canada. Our guest for this episode is Warren Hansen. Warren is not only a curling historian and expert, but a Canadian men’s curling champion. He and his Alberta team, skipped by Hector Gervais, won the 1974 Brier. Recently retired, Warren had worked for the Canadian Curling Association since 1974.

Subscribe to our podcast episodes using RSS or iTunes, or just tune in at Podcast–Discover Library and Archives Canada: Your History, Your Documentary Heritage.

For more information, please contact us at podcasts@canada.ca.

%d bloggers like this: